Minkowski dies first.
It’s a natural consequence, that she would die before Lovelace. Functional immortality has that effect. But it’s still surprising, nonetheless- she lived through so much, and what killed her was time. Just time. 50 years off that damn ship to die in her sleep, Renee Minkowski gone in a night. Lovelace waking up next to the empty corpse of the woman she loved. Her wife.
Everyone had always aged around her.
Lovelace is out of place at the funeral, a woman in her thirties among people who appear far older than she is. Even Eiffel’s daughter, here with her father in his wheelchair, looks older than her. She’s unstuck in time, all her friends dead or- Lovelace looks at Eiffel, asleep in his chair with his head lolling back, the light shining through his sparse white hair and illuminating his wrinkles- soon to be. She’s an unchanging anomaly in a world with no time for her, and it hurts. Living without Minkowski hurts.
Lovelace’s biggest regret is never taking her name. The world needs a Minkowski in it.
When Eiffel dies, Lovelace withdraws from others, going away from people, moving to a big city and buying an apartment and not going out except at night when she could be anyone. She wanders around the city under the street lamps and goes to bars and kisses random girls just to feel like someone wants her again, and she always feels guilty about it in the morning. But Minkowski’s gone, and there’s no bringing her back, even though that’s what she wants. That’s what Lovelace wants more than anything. After all, it’s her nature to always want what she can’t have.
Sometimes Isabel Lovelace looks out at the busy streets and thinks about what a car crash would feel like, what her lifeless body lying broken on the asphalt would look like. Sometimes she looks at the drop from the window and pictures the fall, sometimes she thinks about toasters and baths, about forks and electrical sockets, about guns and knives and what it would feel like, all these different ways her life could end.
Sometimes Lovelace looks up into the night sky and wishes that so many years ago she had just let herself breathe vacuum.
When she’s like this, the voice in her head that interrupts her is always Minkowski’s-- not yet, Captain. I’m not ready for you to join me just yet. And neither is the universe, it seems, because Lovelace knows in her bones that she would just come back, and she’s not willing to subject herself to that kind of pain unless it would be the only time. She’s died too many times already. But life is increasingly far away, and the nightmares happen more and more, until she doesn’t eat or sleep or drink. She doesn’t need it. She’s not sure she ever did.
Lovelace stops going out and stays in with the lights off instead, staring at the ceiling for hours at a time. Lovelace sits and stares and remembers her life like a movie projected for her, a big demonstration of what not to do. Don’t be like Captain Isabel Lovelace, kids. Look at what happened to her.
Life drifts and drifts away, with Lovelace in her little bubble, the world aging around her. It goes distant and grey until there’s almost nothing left, just dust. Just Lovelace, and it’s been so long that no one would miss her now, either, if she died. So damn long.
One day, after all the pain and exhaustion, after Minkowski’s been dead for god knows how long, Lovelace closes her eyes and sees her again, with more clarity than she had ever pictured for years, maybe. For decades? For centuries? Minkowski, as she was when she was young, so so long ago. She hears her voice, remembers her talking with such ease. Hello, love.
“Hi,” says Lovelace, speaking aloud to the darkness behind her eyelids. Her voice is rusted and creaky from disuse, and she coughs to clear her throat. “I missed you.”
I missed you too, says Minkowski, and she looks healthy, so unlike how she was in the last years of her life. She practically glows, her dark eyes clear, her hair black and glossy again, loose around her shoulders. Then she reaches out, and the warmth of phantom fingers brush Lovelace’s cheek. It’s time.
“You’ve come to take me away?” asks Lovelace, and for the first time in so many years there’s hope in her voice.
Yes. Minkowski smiles, and it’s so beautiful that Lovelace wants to cry. Take my hand.
She reaches out, and Lovelace does take her hand, feeling the soft skin of her palm. She lifts it to the back of her mouth and kisses it, and Minkowski laughs. “I love you.”
I love you too.
Minkowski leads Lovelace away, and she feels her heart stop in her chest, her breathing slow to a halt. Then something snaps, and she’s free, her body on the bed just that- a body, empty. Minkowski turns and kisses her softly, then pulls back and looks her in the eye.
Come on, she says.
There are a lot of people waiting for you.